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Monday, July 10, 2023

Santa Monica’s Headspace Health laid off dozens of therapists. Their patients don’t know where they went

Jaimie Ding
The Los Angeles Times
Originally posted 7 July 23

When Headspace Health laid off 33 of its therapists June 29, patients were told their providers had left the platform.

What they didn’t know was their therapists had lost their jobs. And they suddenly had no way to contact them.

Several therapists who were let go from Headspace, the Santa Monica meditation app and remote mental health care company, have raised alarm over their treatment and that of their patients after the companywide layoff of 181 total employees, which amounts to 15% of the workforce.

After the layoffs were announced in the morning without warning, these therapists said they immediately lost access to their patient care systems. Appointments, they said, were canceled without explanation, potentially causing irreparable harm to their patients and forcing them to violate the ethical guidelines of their profession.

One former therapist, who specializes in working with the LGBTQ+ community, said one of his clients had just come out in a session the day before he lost his job. The therapist requested anonymity because he was still awaiting severance from Headspace and feared retribution.

“I’m the first person they’ve ever talked to about it,” he said. “They’re never going back to therapy. They just had the first person she talked to about it abandon them.”

He didn’t know he had been laid off until 10 minutes after his first appointment was supposed to start and he had been unable to log into the system.

Some thoughts and analysis from me.  There are clear ethical and legal concerns here.

Abandoning patients: Headspace Health did not provide patients with any notice or information about where their therapists had gone. This is a violation of the ethical principle of fidelity, which requires healthcare providers to act in the best interests of their patients. It also leaves patients feeling abandoned and without a source of care.

Potential for harm to patients: The sudden loss of a therapist can be disruptive and stressful for patients, especially those who are in the middle of treatment. This could lead to relapses, increased anxiety, or other negative consequences. In more extreme, but realistic cases, it could even lead to suicide.

In addition to the ethical and legal problems outlined above, the article also raises questions about the quality of care that patients can expect from Headspace Health. If the company is willing to abruptly lay off therapists without providing any notice or information to patients, it raises concerns about how they value the well-being of their patients. It also raises questions about the company's commitment to providing quality care.  Headspace may believe itself to be a tech company, but it is a healthcare company subject to many rules, regulations, and standards.